In my lifetime –
100% renewable

 
Amaidhi Devaraj

Thanks to our geography and our vast coastline, there is tremendous potential for generating renewable energy in India.

Young people can and do make significant contributions to harnessing it. An engineering student in Pune recently invented a device that generated electricity through the movement of vehicles over a pressure-spring system. The vehicles pass over what looks like a speed breaker and the constant up and down motion of the spring below creates the movement necessary to generate electricity through magnetic induction.

A pilot ‘speed breaker’ will soon be installed in the busy City Market area of Bangalore, where the idea was further researched and developed. There are 11 million vehicles in Bangalore, and it is estimated that the energy that they could generate in one day would be enough to keep a football stadium’s lights burning for a whole week.

Other simpler forms of youth action in India include setting up internet chat rooms and interest groups. These often get together to discuss ways of petitioning local and national governments to do more to harvest renewable energy.

I have also been working with a group of other young people to research the science of creating a green automobile fuel from sugar cane molasses.

But India remains a land of villages. Rural people largely depend upon fuelwood, crop residues and cow dung to meet their basic energy needs for cooking and heating. With the increasing population pressure of around a billion people, the consumption of fuelwood has far exceeded its sustainable supply, causing deforestation and desertification. The desertification of the land around the Bandipur forests near my home in South India results from this overwhelming dependence on fuelwood by poor landless peasants and tribal people. In my lifetime, it has turned pristine verdant forests into arid wastelands.

The age-old practice of burning cattle dung and crop residues for cooking is similarly destructive. It deprives agricultural land of much needed manure, depleting soil fertility. Inefficient burning of cow dung in traditional stoves creates a lot of smoke in small village huts without effective ventilation, causing breathing difficulties and sight problems for many rural women and children. The Government’s strategy has been to promote biogas units for recycling cow dung to harness its value for fuel without destroying the value of the manure. Lavatory-linked biogas plants that both treat human waste and provide much needed methane fuel for cooking are also popular. Both need much more promotion and tax breaks to ensure widespread implementation. The air in Delhi and other cities has been noticeably cleaned up by converting the city buses and auto-ricks from diesel to gas power so people, and especially young people, are ready for more policy initiatives like this.

India has made great strides in the direction of harnessing renewable energy through biogas, biomass, solar energy, wind energy, small hydropower and other emerging technologies. The Government has devised a scheme to give concessions on their monthly electricity bill to people who install solar water heaters. We need more of this. I hope that, in my lifetime, India will become 100 per cent powered by renewable energy, over which we have complete control, so future generations will no longer be dependent on polluting fossil fuel supplies, over which we have none


Amaidhi Devaraj is studying Law at the University of Bangalore, South India.

PHOTOGRAPH: Alex Wong/UNEP/Topham


This issue:
Contents | Editorial | Key to development | The energy challenge | Plant power | Bioenergy: doing well while doing right | New energy for development | People | Delivering Change | Benign growth | Green energy | At a glance: Energy | Sustainable Dreams | Brightening the future | Greening oil | Blue-sky thinking | Books & products | New energy to assault poverty | New energy entrepreneurs | Time to get serious | Breaking the ice | In my lifetime – 100% renewable

Complementary issues:
WSSD, 2002
Poverty Health and the Environment, 2001
Energy, 2001